Member Trees are the perfect way to organize and store your family history online. You can add family photos, edit names and dates, track sources, view timelines of life events, attach records you’ve discovered on Ancestry.com, and easily share your tree with family and friends. And thousands of Ancestry members just like you have created their own Member Trees. You can create and search for two types of Member Trees, Public Member Trees and Private Member Trees. While both trees are searchable, the difference between them is the amount of information that is accessible to other users in a search result.
Public Member Trees
A Public Member Tree is an individual family tree whose owner has chosen to make the tree viewable to all Ancestry members. The tree is fully searchable and is available to any user, as long as they have a subscription. Users can view photos, stories, sources, and much more. And by clicking on an individual in the tree, a user can see who owns the tree and contact them for additional information.
Note: Information about living individuals is not included in searches and cannot be seen by others viewing the family tree.
Private Member Trees
A Private Member Tree is an individual family tree whose owner has chosen to make the tree private. Private Member Trees cannot be viewed by other Ancestry members but names, birthplaces and birth dates will appear in search results so members can see if a tree contains an individual they’re looking for. If someone wants to see the Private Member Tree, and any attached photos and records, they will have to use the Ancestry Messages to contact the tree’s owner (explained later in the article). The owner of the tree is then able to decide whether or not to invite that individual to access to their tree.
If you are worried that your tree may contain errors or you have information that has not been sourced, the Private Member Tree is a great way to get your tree online and be in contact other researchers—without worrying that you are sharing inaccurate information.
Note: Remember, other members who want to view your Private Member Tree may also have helpful information about your tree that they would like to share.
So How Do I Choose Whether My Tree is Public or Private?
If you are creating a new tree or uploading a GEDCOM, simply leave the “Allow others to view this tree...” box checked to make your tree public. And if you want to keep your tree personal, make sure this checkbox isn’t marked.
If you already have a Member Tree, and you want to change whether it is a public or personal tree, go to the Family Trees tab. Then click the “Manage Tree” link next to the tree you want to update.
The Manage Tree page shows whether your tree is public or personal.
In the Family Tree tab of the tree settings, select Privacy Settings and then choose the setting of your choice and save your changes. You can repeat this process and change the privacy settings of your tree at any time.
Searching Member Trees
The website has several different ways you can search Member Trees. The easiest way is to click the Search tab at the top of the Ancestry.com homepage. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and from click on Family Trees. Enter information for the individual you’re looking for and click the Search button. You can click the links to see the individuals in each tree that match your search results.
Connecting with Others
If you find information in a tree that seems to match your family and you want to learn more, you can contact the owner of the tree.
To contact the owner of a Public Member Tree:
1. In your search results, click the link for the individual whose tree you want to view. You will now see the individual’s Profile Page. In the top-left corner, next to the tree name, you’ll see a link to the owner of that tree.
2. Click the owner name.
3. A window will open with a link to Contact.
4. Add any necessary information to the e-mail template and click the Send button.
To contact the owner of a Private Member Tree:
1. In your search results, click the Private Member Tree’s link. A message gives you information about the tree—the name of the individual you were searching for and their birth date and birthplace, and the number of people in the tree.
2. Click the Make Connection button. Ancestry.com creates an e-mail message for you.
3. Add any necessary information to the e-mail template and click the Send button.
Whether you’re looking to organize your family history or connect with other family members, the Member Trees at Ancestry.com are a great place to begin. Start searching today!
Tana Pedersen Lord is a contributing editor to Ancestry Magazine and author of The Official Guide to Family Tree Maker 2006.